As B would be so happy to tell you, I am not an easy person to shop for. This is in part because I work very hard on distinguishing between my wants and needs, and also in part because I hardly actually know what I need. I would like to think that it means my life is very satisfied, although there’s surely a bit in there about my people-pleasing nature. At any rate, things like my birthday often pose a dilemma. People would like to get me something. No one knows what that something is.
This year, I came up with something: I wanted a penguin.
Penguins are very popular in this house. I dare say they have replaced ducks as our favorite animal. They are, indeed, so very cute, with their upright, waddling stride and their curiously contemplative gaze. For the past six months or so, M has claimed “penguin expert” as his future career of choice (the writer in me feels compelled that he has also stated he will be a writer up until he becomes a penguin expert, which I hope means someday he will write very darling penguin related books). We have gathered books about penguins, watched penguin movies and penguin cams, and visited them at Sea World. We have also endured manymanymany requests to have a penguin as a pet.
You cannot have a penguin as a pet, even if it is your birthday.
What you can do is pay a goodly sum of money at Sea World and go behind the scenes of the penguin exhibit. The kids were open-mouthed and gasping with excitement when we told them this, casually striding through Sea World on a gorgeous Tuesday afternoon. Before long, we were stepping through a foot bath and sanitizing our hands, watching on the cam as a real penguin expert plucked a willing bird from 27F and brought him out to meet us.
For the record, penguins are much softer than I anticipated–soft as a bird, which probably shouldn’t be a surprise. Their flippers, on the contrary, are very hard. Almost like plastic. The ones we met were incredibly docile, even around curious and excited children. The lack of predators, plus lots of human interaction, makes them more friendly. Which just absolutely rocked our world.
So there you have it. Penguins. Because sometimes the best birthday gift is the one you can’t take home.